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Daschian, Ritter Repeat as Champs; Cal Poly Men Win 4th Straight Title

Daschian, Ritter Repeat as Champs; Cal Poly Men Win 4th Straight Title

Mustangs Sweep Individual Crowns at Big West Cross Country Championships

Men's Squad Becomes Conference's 3rd Team in 51 Years to Capture Four Consecutive Trophies

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Cal Poly's Miranda Daschian and Jake Ritter swept the individual Big West cross country titles on Saturday morning, leading a banner day at the Conference Championships for the Mustangs on UCR's Ag-Ops Course.

Ritter led his squad to the team title — their fourth in a row — becoming only the third program in Big West history to claim that many consecutively, joining the Cal Poly teams from 2003-09 as well as Long Beach State's 1969-72 era.

His 8k medalist performance came with a time of 23 minutes, 43.7 seconds, helping the team score 44 points.

"It really means a lot. It's a special one," Mark Conover, Mustang Director of Track & Field/Cross Country, said of the championship. "The way the season unfolded we were going to be utilizing a lot of redshirt freshmen, and they've just been committed and running well and getting after it alongside our lone senior, Chas Cook, who had a really nice conference meet again as he has in the past."

"We've been working as a unit, is kind of what we've been preaching, and as a result the young guys got it done today, which bodes well for not just the present but also the future. They've been battle-tested, and everything is a learning curve," Conover added. "They stayed on their feet and battled hard and brought home our fourth straight title, which is never easy. So to have this particular group really work well together and go earn it like this makes me proud."

A junior from Citrus Heights, Calif. (Granite Bay HS), Ritter beat UC Santa Barbara rival Nick Randazzo, a three-time conference athlete of the week in the regular season, by more than a 42-second gap for the title. His time moved to No. 9 in the history of the course.

"Jake took the race by the horns and rode it on in, and the team followed suit," Conover continued. "Jake just has stayed committed to the whole process which is the whole season. Your goal is to be doing your best racing at the end of the season, and Jake's been able to accomplish that again. He looked smooth and composed and had a great run out there today."

Daschian paced the Mustang women's squad to a third-place score of 51 points in the team totals, winning the 6k in 20:20.7, moving to No. 14 all-time for the course.

"She ran a very intelligent race defending her conference title," Conover said. "She managed her energy well best of all and pulled away the last three-quarters of a mile and looked smooth coming in."

A senior from Cuesta College by way of Atascadero, Daschian bested CSF's Samantha Huerta, the Big West Athlete of the Week on Oct. 8, by 4.3 seconds to go back-to-back.

"Certainly, she's led the team the past couple of years and to cap off her Big West Championship career in cross country, in addition to winning the 10,000 and 5,000 meter titles in track last year like this, it just adds to her legacy," Conover commented.

Cal State Fullerton won its first-ever women's team trophy upon tallying 44 points, edging UC Davis (50) by six.

Starting out the morning, the Mustang women — champs in three of the four previous years — also placed two teammates on the podium stand with top-10 finishes, as Sierra Brill took sixth place with an effort of 20:52.7, and Cate Ratliff came in ninth via 21:09.4.

Abbey Fisk was next, earning 16th with a time of 21:23.0, while Angela DiPentino rounded out the Mustang scorecard by taking 19th, in 21:26.5. Also for Cal Poly, Annie Meeder finished 20th, clocking a 21:29.3; Melodie Leroudier was 24th (at 21:45.9); Misty Diaz added a 29th-place 21:57.8; and Lexi Watkins came in 37th (22:09.3).

Behind Ritter in the ensuing men's final, John Bennett came in seventh place at his debut championship meet, earning a time of 24:54.0.

A trio of Mustang teammates followed in the top 15, as Cook added an 11th-place showing of 25:03.9, just ahead of Anthony Benitez in 12th at 25:08.5, and Elias Opsahl 13th via 25:09.6.

Will Fallini-Haas was right with them, taking 16th place at 25:19.2, and Hayden Hansen followed 36th in 26:12.3.

Cal Poly topped the field by a nine-point margin, as the Fullerton men finished second with 53 points.

All-time between both squads following Saturday's efforts, Cal Poly has now won a combined total of 52 conference team championships for cross country, 24 of which have come in the Big West.

In addition, the program has seen a combined 40 all-time individual conference titles, including 17 in the Big West.

The postseason continues with the NCAA West Regional Championships on Friday, Nov. 15. Washington State will host the meet at nearby Colfax Golf Complex, set for an 11:30 a.m. start.

Photos © John Fajardo